2018-07-18 / Voice at the Shore

Chabad’s home-made challah is a summer favorite at the shore

By ELLEN WEISMAN STRENGER Voice shore editor


Tova Rapoport (left of center, in red apron) leads a Friday morning challah-baking workshop at the Chai Center. Tova Rapoport (left of center, in red apron) leads a Friday morning challah-baking workshop at the Chai Center. When it comes to making Challah, Chabad’s Tova Rapoport is not only an expert; she’s a living legend.

Summer people and locals alike flock to the Margate Farmer’s Market on Thursday mornings to purchase her homemade challahs, which are also available at the Chabad Chai Center in Ventnor on Friday mornings.

Tova also gets frequent calls from people with challah-baking questions. “I’ve had people calling me for help when I was at the airport about to get on a plane, and at my daughter’s wedding!” she said.

Most of these people know Tova as the challah maven from taking her challah-baking workshops on Friday mornings during the summer, which she has offered for the past 15 years. For some, those classes are now a family tradition.

“I have people who call me in May to reserve for August for their grandchildren. The kids remember it from year to year and look forward to it,” she said. “One young man who is 18 or 19 now started with me when he was five. Every year he comes down with his grandmother, sometimes with his brothers. He said it’s a summer tradition.”

Tova’s Friday morning challah workshops started out primarily for kids but now draw people of all ages, both summer people and locals. As people have told their friends about the classes, demand has grown—so it’s important to make a reservation, she stressed. On many weekends, there are so many people that she offers two Friday morning workshops at the Chabad Chai Center at 6605 Atlantic Avenue in Ventnor.

During the class, each person gets the opportunity to add an ingredient to the challah dough, following Tova’s special recipe. Students then get dough to braid, which they then take home and bake, just in time to celebrate Shabbat. They also leave with the knowledge and instructions to make challah on their own.

“It’s really quite easy. Very quick!” she said. “Some people tell me they make it every week now.” Some have also told her that doing so and celebrating Shabbat with the homemade challah has “transformed their homes” and given them a “feeling of connection with Judaism.”

According to Rapoport, challah represents something much larger than a loaf of bread. Making challah is one of the special mitzvot performed by Jewish women. “It’s very close to my heart. Jewish women have been making challah for 3,000 years. It’s an easy mitzvah and it’s a delicious mitzvah. I talk about this in my workshop.”

On Thursday, July 26, Tova will lead 200 women through a strictly adult version of her challah-baking workshop when Chabad at the Shore holds its 3rd Annual Mega Challah Bake. The event will start at 6:45 p.m. with drinks and a light dinner buffet in the Chai Center courtyard, followed by challah baking inside, where each woman will take a place at one of 20 tables set for 10 women, who will each leave with two unbaked challahs along with Tova’s recipe and challah-making instructions.

The Mega Challah Bake fills up quickly, so those interested in attending should reserve their spot ASAP, said Ella Rapoport, Tova’s daughter, who helps organize the event. (For reservations, call 609-822-8500 or go to www.chabadac/ChallahBake.) The entire evening costs $36 per person.

The Mega Challah Bake is “a real show of continuity and community,” said Ella. “It’s not just about baking challah, it’s about bringing together all the Jewish women on the island, wining and dining everyone. It’s something we do in praise of Jewish women.”

“It’s a way to connect with tradition, and bring home part of it,” she added. Just like in the Friday morning classes, everyone who attends the Mega Challah Bake leaves with braided loaves that they can bake and then serve on Shabbat. “It’s delicious, and it feeds body and soul.”

For more information on the Mega Challah Bake, Tova’s Friday morning challah-baking workshops, or on challahs for sale at the Margate Farmer’s Market or the Chabad Chai Center, please call 609-822- 8500. 

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